Limonium angustebracteatum is a halophyte endemic to the E and SE Iberian Peninsula with interest in conservation. Salt glands represent an important adaptive trait in recretohalophytes like this and other Limonium species, as they allow the excretion of excess salts, reducing the concentration of toxic ions in foliar tissues. This study included the analysis of the salt gland structure, composed of 12 cells, 4 secretory and 8 accessory. Several anatomical, physiological and biochemical responses to stress were also analysed in adult plants subjected to one month of water stress, complete lack of irrigation, and salt stress, by watering with aqueous solutions of 200, 400, 600 and 800 mM NaCl. Plant growth was inhibited by the severe water deficit and, to a lesser extent, by high NaCl concentrations. A variation in the anatomical structure of the leaves was detected under conditions of salt and water stress; plants from the salt stress treatment showed salt glands sunken between epidermal cells, bordered by very large epidermal cells, whereas in those from the water stress treatment, the epidermal cells were heterogeneous in shape and size. In both, the palisade structure of the leaves was altered. Salt excretion is usually accompanied by the accumulation of salts in the foliar tissue. This was also found in L. angustebracteatum, in which the concentration of all ions analysed was higher in the leaves than in the roots. The increase of K+ in the roots of plants subjected to water stress was also remarkable. The multivariate analysis indicated differences in water and salt stress responses, such as the accumulation of Na and Cl, or proline, but K+ homeostasis played a relevant role in the mechanism of tolerance to both stressful conditions.
Keywords: conservation programmes; drought tolerance; endemism; ion transport; osmolytes accumulation; recretohalophytes; salt glands; salt stress; salt tolerance; water deficit.